Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Four “Terrorist Butler”

This episode brings to mind various movies that take place on trains (or occasionally buses) imperiled by bombs that will go off if the vehicle stops. It also reminds me of the first Airplane! movie, and contains random elements from Murder on the Orient Express. The episode is mostly played for comedy, though there are a few serious moments.

Ciel’s mission is to intercept a kidnapper who is holding the son of a nobleman hostage for ransom. As he’s getting ready to board the train with Sebastian, Finnian bumps into porters carrying a large case onto the train--the case contains a mummy. Sebastian claims to have known the occupant when he was alive, but remarks that the mummy doesn’t really look that much like the person he knew. (As you would expect from a demon butler like Sebastian, he has been everywhere.)

Continue to the review on Associated Content

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interview: Ryk E. Spoor

Ryk E. Spoor writes mostly science fiction. His first published novel was Digital Knight, which was published in 2003. More recent works include Threshold, co-written with Eric Flint and Grand Central Arena. More information about his books can be found on his LJ and on his web page.

How did you get started writing?

Just "writing", as in writing stories for whatever reason? I was six when I wrote a story for school (first grade) titled "Lunuai Luna the Luna Moth", in which I described the thoughts of a caterpillar going through the process that it did not understand. The teacher had me read it to the THIRD graders, and it was THAT day that it suddenly occurred to me: PEOPLE -- like, you know, regular people, that started out as kids -- wrote all those books.

Did you plan on becoming a professional writer?

Well, from the above description, you can see yes, ever since I was six. I just had no idea what that meant or how you went about it, so I just wrote.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Three "Wench Butler"

In the first episode, we are introduced to Alois Trancy and his butler Claude, when Sebastian goes to the Trancy mansion to retrieve Ciel’s signet ring. In the second episode we found that people who had died during the last scenes of the first season are now apparently alive--and that Ciel does not appear know this. The apparent amnesia is confirmed in this episode, and we learn a little more about Alois Trancy and his butler by implication.

The episode opens up with a happy husband and wife leaving a photography studio. The happiness soon turns to horror when the young woman spontaneously combusts. Avidly watching this scene is Grell, a transgender Grim Reaper with a flamboyant attitude and a real love for her work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spiral Hunt by Margaret Ronald

307 pp. 

Spiral Hunt (Evie Scelan)
Spiral Hunt is a first novel, but it has a very strong and well-defined presence, with an engaging style and interesting characters. This book was also something of a surprise, since most of the urban fantasy I’ve been seeing lately has been urban fantasy romance, where most of the action and characterization is based off of getting the female protagonist hitched up with a male character as quickly as possible. (I’m amazed at how few of these “urban fantasy romances” have anything to do with actual “courtship” or romance. I much prefer a slow build up over the course of a longer story.) This is a straight fantasy adventure with mystery elements, and is very reminiscent of Emma Bull or Charles de Lint’s style of writing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How I Got Expelled Because of an Antelope

Note: This story is more or less true, though events have been conflated and condensed due to my having a very bad memory for exact dates and times. Also, I am very sarcastic about what happened. Those involved, particularly my parents and other individuals will claim that I made this up. Sadly, they are mistaken.

When I was in grade school, I had many problems, due to being a little too smart and a little too dumb--at the same time. I had few if any social skills, an inability to communicate coherently and in general, very easily confused by very simple things. I may or may not have any of a number of learning disabilities. (I was in “Special Ed” from I think third grade, until my first year in high school. According to my parents and teachers, I was “emotionally disturbed” which is not a diagnosis. You would be emotionally disturbed too, if everything confused the heck out of you, were surrounded by often hostile people, and it took you forever to learn everything.)

I had a strong interest in animals and eventually acquired an interest in reading once I learned how--which did nothing to make me popular. Because of my various difficulties, I got a lot of grief in school from both teachers and other students. (Who then gave the same amount of grief to my poor brother and sister. Apparently, I just was that incredibly horrible as a child.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Two "Solo Butler"

In the previous episode, we discovered that Ciel has returned from the other side of the river Styx. We were also introduced to the antagonists of this season, Alois Trancy and his cheap imitation “one heck of a butler” Claude Faustus. (We also discovered that I was the only one who saw a dorky visual pun in Claude’s tap dance routine.) There are some indications of some kind of connection between the two pairs, in that Claude was apparently in possession of Ciel’s signet ring. (And I say “Claude” rather than “Alois” because the kid apparently wasn’t aware of its presence.)

Continue to the article on Associated Content.

A Wizard of Mars, by Diane Duane

550 pp.

A Wizard of Mars: The Ninth Book in the Young Wizards SeriesIt should be noted that I am generally not shy about scouting for books in the Young Adult section, even if I’m very far from being a “young” adult. Especially if the young adult novel in question has been written by one of my favorite authors, Diane Duane. The latest installment of Diane Duane’s Young Wizard’s series takes us (back) to Mars, where a team of wizards is investigating the discovery of a mysterious “message in a bottle” found there. Had there at one time been life on Mars? All signs seem to point toward “yes” when various long dormant wizardries become active, drawing the wizardly explorers--and Kit in particular--into a series of magical tests.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode One "Clawed Butler"

Given the ending of the first season, a second one did not seem possible to Kuroshitsuji fans. Ciel had a very dramatic exit in the finale of the original anime series, complete with a boat ride down the river Styx. Rumors of a second season and that there were would be a new butler and master pair were greeted with a great deal of aggravation and hostility, which just increased as the initial previews came out. (I more or less shared the general irritation, but was willing to give the new pair a chance.)

Dancing With Werewolves, by Carole Nelson Douglas

390 pp.

Dancing with Werewolves (Delilah Street; Paranormal Investigator)I finally found and read Dancing With Werewolves, which is the first book in a new series of urban fantasy novels by Carole Nelson Douglas. (I’ve previously reviewed both Brimstone Kiss and Vampire Sunrise.) This series combines the tropes of film noir and early detective fiction with the standard “babe with gun” urban fantasy romance, with mixed results. The near “near future with magic” setting (type “surprise, the monsters under the bed are REAL and want EQUAL REPRESENTATION!”) does not mesh very well with the writing style or narrative of the story. This makes it a very hard book for me to get into, but your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Outline of Thendara House by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This is an Outline, not a serious review or critique, meant for parody and humor purposes only.

Other Outlines can be found here

The Saga of the Renunciates (The Shattered Chain, Thendara House, City of Sorcery) (Darkover)Thendara House is the second book in the Renunciate sequence of the Darkover series. Darkover is a very big paracosm with often-conflicting plots and world building. Feminist issues often come up in this series, given that the Darkovan cultures are strongly patriarchal and women--except for the Renunciates--are considered second-class citizens. Renunciates or “Free Amazons” enjoy greater freedom and exemption from the various restrictions and laws that keep Darkovan women second-class and entirely reliant on their male family members. I’m leaving out the Social Darwinism and the eugenic/ablelist stuff because that needs an article all its own.

MAGDA: I, Magda Lorne, will provide you exposition while I wait to turn in my resignation. I am a Terran woman of two worlds, who grew up in Caer Donn--my notions of honor align more closely with the Darkovan culture. I pretended to be a member of the “Free Amazons” in order to move about freely so I could rescue my ex. Needless to say, I got caught. Now I’m going to be joining the Renunciates and my gal pal Jaelle, who has married my slightly misogynistic ex Peter is going to be working at the Terran HQ.

CHOYLANA ARES: Hi! I’m your boss, and you’re not resigning--we’d like to learn more about these Darkovans! Terran Society is Multicultural, while also being very condescending!

MAGDA: I will not spy for the Terranen!! Er, I mean, I feel that this would be a conflict of interests.

CHOYLANA: I will continue to be condescending and insist! I will play upon your conflicted sense of loyalty and talk about understanding differences! And it’s not like I can go out there! Darkover is the world of pasty white folks.

MAGDA: All right, FINE.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines


The Mermaid's Madness (PRINCESS NOVELS)The Mermaid’s Madness is the second in Jim C. Hines’ series featuring re-imagined versions of fairytale characters such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. (I really need to stop starting series with the second book. Unfortunately, I was not able to find The Stepsister Scheme, which is the first book. I am happy to say that the second book is more or less stand alone and you don’t really need to read the first book.) The re-imagining gives the characters a much tougher, darker outlook in some ways, since the “real history” comes from the original, more disturbing versions of their stories. (Talia, aka Sleeping Beauty for instance is a survivor of rape, fitting in with the original story where the event that wakes her up is going into labor, instead of a kiss. She’s the “muscle” of the group in some respects. Danielle, aka Cinderella got help from the ghost of her mother, instead of a fairy godmother. She appears to be the spokesperson/diplomat/leader of the trio. Snow still Snow White, and also a sorceress.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Boredom is Dangerous, Vampire Game by Judal

Vampire Game is a fifteen-volume shojo manga. The story opens with a vampire king who’s come back from the dead, and one very bored princess named Ishtar who is very sheltered and very indifferent to the idea of ruling her country. Or in learning to use magic. Or in doing anything except trying to escape the people trying to teach and protect her. She is a trial to both her teachers and her bodyguard who she has a very not-so-secret crush on. The primary reason for her intense dislike of her role as a princess is that her relatives murdered her parents.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Grand Central
567 pp.
Naamah's CurseDespite the ending of Naamah’s Kiss, which I didn’t care for I wanted to read this book. (It really annoys me when gunpowder weapons are held to be the Greatest Evil Every Invented. A lot.) As alternate history settings go, Carey’s world is detailed and very interesting, and I really like the main character Moirin.

In Naamah’s Curse, Moirin is in hot pursuit of both her Destiny and her lover Bao, who has run off for the steppes of the Tatars. (He wanted to go off alone due to the rather traumatic events of the last book, where he died and was brought back to life, and their teacher died.) Moirin of course doesn’t want to wait for him, and heads out after him. (Alone. This prompts many of the characters into scolding her because going off alone is stupid. The Reader would be inclined to agree.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Those Producers, Trolling

Note: Information collected from recent posts in the Kuroshitsuji LJ community, which is friendslocked.

Six months ago, the Kuroshitsuji fandom was extremely outraged about the second season of Kuroshitsuji, which would apparently be featuring a new butler and master pair, Alois Trancy and Claude Faustus. There were the usual complaints and rants about this apparent switch, mostly to the tune of “It won’t be Kuroshitsuji without Sebastian and Ciel!” As the weeks went by there was some minor overtures of acceptance for the new duo, with occasional showers of mockery for the previews.

I don’t blame them, the initial previews introducing the characters are slightly ridiculous retreads of the opening episodes of the first season. The general impressions I got from the previews was that Alois and Claude were very shabby copies of the original duo. In addition, Claude looks just enough like Sebastian that the rising theory for a time was that Claude actually was Sebastian, under a new master. A second theory was that Claude was the demonic version of Ciel (mostly based off the recurring spider imagery--it made a certain kind of sense given his “grasping a spider’s thread of a chance” metaphors. If Ciel were a demon, the reasoning followed, he’d be identified with spiders, the way that Sebastian is indentified with ravens).

The premiere however revealed something unexpected: Alois and Claude are not in fact the new protagonists for the series. Apparently, the producers of the show decided to play a prank on the fandom, pretending that this new duo were the protagonists of the series. (Judging by appearances, it seems that they may actually be the new nemeses of Ciel and Sebastian.) I’m extremely impressed by the prank--and happy to report that Ciel and Sebastian will be returning as the protagonists of the series. (Though you never know, the writers and producers might be planning a triple cross of some kind...)